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Monday, June 18, 2012

Paul Krugman: Greece as Victim

Paul Krugman:

Greece as Victim, by Paul Krugman, Commentary. NY Times: Ever since Greece hit the skids, we’ve heard a lot about what’s wrong with everything Greek. ... Yes, there are big failings in Greece’s economy, its politics and no doubt its society. But those failings aren’t what caused the crisis that is tearing Greece apart, and threatens to spread across Europe.
No, the origins of this disaster lie farther north, in Brussels, Frankfurt and Berlin, where officials created a deeply — perhaps fatally — flawed monetary system, then compounded the problems of that system by substituting moralizing for analysis. And the solution to the crisis, if there is one, will have to come from the same places. ...
So how did Greece get into so much trouble? Blame the euro. ... Greece joined the euro, and a terrible thing happened: people started believing that it was a safe place to invest. Foreign money poured into Greece... To be sure, the Greeks squandered much if not most of the money that came flooding in, but then so did everyone else who got caught up in the euro bubble.
And then the bubble burst, at which point the fundamental flaws in the whole euro system became all too apparent.
Ask yourself, why does the dollar area — also known as the United States of America — more or less work, without the kind of severe regional crises now afflicting Europe? The answer is that we have a strong central government, and the activities of this government in effect provide automatic bailouts to states that get in trouble.
Consider, for example, what would be happening to Florida right now, in the aftermath of its huge housing bubble, if the state had to come up with the money for Social Security and Medicare out of its own suddenly reduced revenues. Luckily for Florida, Washington rather than Tallahassee is picking up the tab, which means that Florida is in effect receiving a bailout on a scale no European nation could dream of. ...
So Greece, although not without sin, is mainly in trouble thanks to the arrogance of European officials, mostly from richer countries, who convinced themselves that they could make a single currency work without a single government. And these same officials have made the situation even worse by insisting, in the teeth of the evidence, that all the currency’s troubles were caused by irresponsible behavior on the part of those Southern Europeans, and that everything would work out if only people were willing to suffer some more. ...
The only way the euro might — might — be saved is if the Germans and the European Central Bank realize that they’re the ones who need to change their behavior, spending more and, yes, accepting higher inflation. If not — well, Greece will basically go down in history as the victim of other people’s hubris.

    Posted by on Monday, June 18, 2012 at 04:23 AM in Economics | Permalink  Comments (169)

          


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